Archimedes famously declared “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” Now the question is whether “mental levers” are long enough – or effective or persuasive or insightful enough – to move the world of our minds.
Archimedes’ fulcrum is defined by the Free Dictionary as “The point or support on which a lever pivots” but the same dictionary also aptly defines a fulcrum for a mental level: “An agent through which vital powers are exercised.”
In the case of mental levers the fulcrum/agent is The Zero Aggression Project (ZAP).
“The Zero Aggression Project,” announced ZAP President Jim Babka, “has added a major tool to its website – Mental Levers. These short articles answer questions about libertarianism. We call them levers because levers are tools that allow you to accomplish more work with less effort.”
ZAP co-creator Perry Willis adds, “Libertarians use ideas in exactly this way – as levers. We have dozens of facts, principles, and examples that we use repeatedly, on a wide range of issues.” But what exactly are mental levers and how do they work?
The Zero Aggression Principle against coercion, intimidation and fraud is the mental lever for libertarians. The fulcrum could be any issue. The fulcrum and mental lever act together as a question and answer. Voluntaryist-libertarians use The Principle as their lever to judge all questions “yes” or “no.” For every issue one should ask “Does the proposed policy (in politics, society, law, economics, etc.) require a threat of force to make innocent people act against their own conscience or preference?” If the answer is “yes” decent people should oppose politicians, bureaucrats, police or anyone else imposing such policies on anyone. Try it yourself:
Should some people be forced against their will for any reason to bake wedding cakes for other people? Should some people be forced against their will to redistribute the money they’ve legitimately earned to others who have not earned it? Should childless people be forced against their will to educate other people’s children, or healthy people forced to cure sick people, or the rich to support the poor?
Or shouldn’t all people be encouraged to act together in mutually voluntary ways to help one another?
An even better way to understand mental levers is to apply the levers to yourself. Should you be coerced, intimidated or defrauded into fighting in a war you believe is immoral; to be forced to support a particular position on abortion, on handguns, on immigration, on foreign policy, on religious practices, that you personally believe to be wrong because they go against your closely-held moral principles?
To libertarians, anyone who sanctions coercion against others, even when they try to wash the blood from their own hands by asking government to do the dirty work for them, are underserving of sympathy when coercion inevitably becomes blowback against them. After all, they supported the source of the aggression; they got what they deserved.
Mental levers teach us that left vs. right commentary is irrelevant; only authoritarian vs. libertarian issues matter.